That luxury fashion occupies a space of exclusivity, wealth and privilege is a given. With each passing minute, the cash registers of plush boutiques ring up figures far beyond the wildest dreams of the global majority. Yet, despite the abundant wealth circulating the luxury sphere, the intersection between the consumption of luxury goods and philanthropic donation remains embarrassingly narrow. While charitable auctions and galas gain conspicuous coverage, profiling the benevolence of a pedestalled elite, their value in positive PR exposure often far outweighs the impact of the work done to improve the situation that they originally set out to solve. It is an unfortunate truth that the funds raised from such events are often frittered on short-term solutions, and sometimes actively harming community infrastructures rendering the situations they set out to resolve in a state more dire than before.Daniel McGlashan via Mahoro Seward
However, a throng of upstart entrepreneurs across the Western Hemisphere are working to instigate meaningful system reform through their work, consolidating the insatiable demand for luxury goods with an innate human responsibility to better the conditions of the less fortunate. In donating up to 12.5% of the profits generated from each item sold to water.org, an organisation dedicated to “ delivering sustainable market-based solutions that change lives every day through access to water and sanitation“, recently launched e-commerce site Global Design Collective is among the most ambitious in it’s aims to strike a harmonious chord between two worlds that were previously though disparate.AIAIAI
Frustrated by the lack of frameworks that allowed for financial donations to be made to worthy charitable causes when purchasing his favourite brands, GDC’s main mind Daniel McGlashan resolved to “create a portal for those favourite bits and pieces that you love from around the world, […] a marketplace where consumers know that their money is not just satisfying themselves and the companies that they are buying from.” While the idea may be a noble one, it is by no means granted immunity from the necessary trials and tribulations that accompany the setting up of any business, such as the building of “awareness and traffic, [elements that they] are still dealing with”. Add to the mix that GDC exists in an exclusively virtual space, and the struggle arguably increases. Most concept stores gain acclaim for their innovative curations of, and presentations within, physical spaces, and it is irrefutable truth that many luxury goods customers place high value on a personal experience, in which they are able to physically evaluate a product before making a purchase. Yet in place of a physical curatorial approach, Global Design Collective has strived to translate this ethic of product presentation into their online world, focussing on “quality photography and well-written product descriptions”, sensitivities sharpened during Daniel’s time in the fashion publication world, working at New Zealand’s Black Magazine.Mykita
As impressive a CV as he may have, the setting up of such an enterprising venture is not a task for one. Fortunately, he was to enlist the clout of equally experienced industry heads, among them current Highsnobiety Fashion Editor-At-Large Atip Wananuruks, a former colleague at Black Magazine now serving as Global Design Collective’s Creative Director, and Art Director Benny Robinson, who held a similar position at Edwin Europe and currently stands at the helm of London-based art direction studio Machine 17. With Atip’s hawk-eyed fashion sensitivity and Benny’s honed still-life photography abilities, evidence of which can be seen in the imagery interspersing this feature, the polymaths collaborative efforts have resulted in a company as worthy of praise for its impeccable brand selection and presentation as for its fundamental altruism.Œ Magazine
Though the social awareness integral to Global Design Collective manifests itself most evidently in the proportional donation of profit to water.org, the current weight placed on Berlin-based brands and products, among them Mykita your very own Œ, demonstrates an eagerness to raise the creative profile of the company’s resident city. “Berlin is home to GDC, so we always want it be a space in which we showcase quality Berlin goods and support up-and-coming designers that we believe in”. However that does not go to say that are blinkered by their immediate surroundings, with their stocking decisions motivated by an interest and passion blind to the product’s country of origin or presupposed ‘genre’: “Initially it was all very fashion focussed, but there are so many cool bits and pieces, why not tap into all them? Why not sell books? Why not sell headphones, records, magazines?” Above all, GDC is preoccupied far more with the sale of products synonymous with a lifestyle that both advocate and lead, one governed by social awareness and an appreciation for “products made with love, […] not necessarily mass-produced”. Moreover, such versatility allows them to reach beyond the constraints of a single target market, encouraging consumer to discover new products, thereby broadening the reach of their benevolent impact.Mykita
While the Global Design Collective’s umbrella of brands may constantly be expanding, gaining the necessary support and trust was no mean feat. In fact “some brands were cautious to work with [them] due to the charity concept”, showing that the responsibility for the flimsy overlap between fashion and luxury lies not only in the hands of the consumers, but also in those of the brands, certainly a saddening gauge of a contemporary consumer culture that one might naively hope to think of as somewhat compassionate. Furthermore, finding a suitable charitable organisation with which to partner proved a challenge in itself, with “numerous non-profitable organisation having very strict partnerships rules, such as requirements that you have to have been in business for 3 years or more” before any official relationship can be forged. Fortunately, a suitable alliance was created with water.org, an institution dedicated to implementing long-term structures that enable and empower local communities to instigate their own sustainable development, thereby affording them autonomy from the shackles of aid hand-outs.
This notion of power redistribution not permeates the philanthropic component of Global Design Collective, but in facts lies at the very nucleus of it’s business model. Agency is placed “back into the consumer’s hands, letting them have a say, not letting [a corporation] accumulate wealth in the hope that [they] will do some good with the excess that [they do not] need.” The moral responsibility of the consumer, and the ease with which it can be fulfilled, is therefore placed in the spotlight, proving the extent to which what small individual contributions can amount to the making of an appreciable. “If [we all engaged in] profit distribution, then we wouldn’t be reading about many of the issues that we do”.
Were there any hope of seeing Global Design Collective taking up a physical residence, one might be slightly disappointed: “I’ve done my retail days”, says Daniel. “I loved it, but I definitely prefer the online space. I love the technology side and the content creation and I think that it’s enough; it never sleeps!” However, not all hope need be lost: “A pop up shop […] would be fun to do, especially if it were jn partnership with one of the brands that we stock […] and all profits were to go to water.org”. On a nearer horizon, consumers can look forward to an, as expected, impeccable selection of men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, with the company in talks with some “cool labels from Tokyo and a couple of London brands” among a slew of others from both Germany and abroad. Next time you’re eyeing up a pair of Mykita shades, head over to Global Design Collective to make your purchase. After all, what is a near-negligible effort on your part translates into an incommensurable lifeline for another, turning your consumption into the most valuable gift.
All images, unless otherwise credited, via Benny Robinson